Air Aces of World War One


Hauptmann Oswald Boelcke – The Father of German Air Fighting 1891/1916 Part 2

  Boelcke gained three more victories in January 1916, Immelman had two, the race was still on. In the same month Boelcke and Immelman became the first German pilots to be awarded the Ordre Pour Le Merite, The highly coveted, Blue Max, for both having a total of eight victories to their account.

In March 1916, Boelcke returned from a sojourn in hospital with intestinal problems and upon claiming he was stationed too far from the front, he was given permission to use the forward field at Sivry, close to the Verdun offensive. Boelcke then connected a forward observation post to the Airfield and in this way established the first tactical Air Direction Centre.

He was appointed leader of the newly formed Fliegerabteilung Sivry and led then in action over Verdun. This unit of six fighter pilots was the fore runner of the German Jasta or squadron. By this time the now  obsolete Fokkers were being replaced by the new Halberstadt and Albatros Fighters who had stiff competition from the newer Nieuport scouts and the British D.H.2’s. Boelcke focused on his own methods for countering these threats, Flying in tight formations, accurate gunnery in combat and keeping within their own lines.

On the 18th of May 1916, Boelcke scored his 16th victory, 1 more than Immelman at 15, this making him the highest ranking German Ace. Immelman was shot down and killed shortly after his 17th victory. This left Boelcke  with no competition, But the only downside to this was that the Kaiser himself ordered Boelcke grounded. A living Ace was far more use to the propaganda machine than a dead one.

Boelcke was seen as an heroic figure to the German people and the fact that his knowledge of Aircraft tactics was second to none. He was offered a desk job or a tour of the Middle East, after downing a Nieuport over Douaumont on the 27th of June. He then reported to Head-Quarters, he was detailed to share his expertise with the Head of German aviation. The German Air Force was being Re-organised from the Fliegertruppe in to the Luftstreitkrafte in Mid 1916.

Boelcke was the man and pilot, who was the inspiration for this re-Organisation. It was around this time that Boelcke codified his successful tactics in to the Dicta Boelcke. He also shred his views on the creation of a fighter arm and the formation of fighter Squadrons.

To Be Continued…

(C) Damian Grange 2018

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